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Tuesday, June 25th, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 2

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

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Verses 1-23

The deeply interesting account of Gabriel's announcement to Mary that she would be the mother of her Lord, the details as to His birth in Bethlehem, the visit of the shepherds to the manger in which He lay (Luke 1:1-80; Luke 2:1-52) are not found at all in Matthew; for these, though of engrossing personal interest, are not of importance in an official way. We shell see in chapter 2 however that the visit of the wise men from the east was of a much different character, that affected the authorities in the land. The wise men from the East, very likely students of astronomy, had been amazingly moved by a star they had seen, which they had no doubt bore witness to the birth of the King of Israel. This had been so impressed upon them, no doubt by God Himself, that they set out on a journey that must have taken them well over a year's time. Their question to Herod the king was most striking too, "Where is He that is born King of the Jews." Kings are not born as such, but become kings later. He has this unique dignity of actually being born King. Though the wise men were Gentiles, far removed from Israel, they were made to feel the great importance of this event, and the matter becomes public by their appeal to Herod. This is most suitable to Matthew's purpose in writing.

Herod (and all Jerusalem with him) takes the matter seriously; but instead of rejoicing in such marvellous news, he is troubled. At the time of the Lord's birth the shepherds had spread abroad this blessed news, but it evidently made little impression on the authorities. Now Herod has to inquire of the chief priests and Pharisees where the Messiah should be born. They knew the answer (fromMicah 5:2; Micah 5:2), but seemed to have no more desire for Christ then did Herod. Surely any honest reality of faith would have gladly desired to join the wise men in such a quest.

Herod carefully inquired of them what time the star appeared, his motives in this being thoroughly evil, as verse 16 proves. He wanted to know the age of the child, with the object of murdering him. Yet in cunning hypocrisy he asked them to find the child and report to him in order that he also might worship Him.

Leaving to go to Bethlehem they were filled with great joy in seeing the same star which they had seen in the east, going before them. Astronomers tell us that there is no record of any special star or comet appearing in the heavens at that time; and it seems likely that God sent this simply for their own observation. It could not have been a huge star, but more like a meteor, for it was close enough to earth to come to stand directly over the house in which the Lord was. It seems therefore that it was exclusively intended for the wise men. No longer was He in the manger, but in a house.

It is the young child whom first it is said they see, and with Mary His mother. They fell down and worshipped only Him, not her. Their gifts too were given to Him only; gold, symbolizing the magnificence of His Godhead glory; frankincense, the fragrant purity of His manhood perfection; and myrrh, the bitter taste of the voluntary sufferings He must bear together with its odour of sweet fragrance arising to God. They may not have realized anything of this, but they were clearly directed by God.

This history in Chapter 2 is marked beautifully in all its details by the supernatural guidance of God. The wise men were warned of God in a dream not to return to Herod, so that they take another route homeward. This great journey was taken only for a brief sight of the young child born King Of Israel. What a lesson for Jews in the land, who had no interest in seeing Him! But the wisdom and faith of these wise men is enshrined in Scripture for eternity!

Again Joseph receives angelic instruction in a dream, being told to take the young child to Egypt until further notice from God. God would not put forth supernatural power to defeat Herod's wicked scheming, but would do so by the humbling experience of Joseph and Mary in fleeing to another country. It was lack of faith that led Abram to Egypt (Genesis 12:10); and stubborn rebellion against God's word that led the remnant of Judah there in Jeremiah's day (Jeremiah 43:1-7); but in Genesis 46:2-4 God told Jacob to go there, and here Joseph goes by the word of God. This is our one safe guide at all times.

Joseph and Mary remained in Egypt with the young child until the death of Herod, and we are told that this time in Egypt was intended to fulfil Hosea 11:1: "Out of Egypt have I called my Son." This is a striking example of a double application of the word of God, for the verse in Hosea reads, "When Israel Was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt." Any Jew in reading this would suppose it referred strictly to Israel's release from the bondage of Egypt by the hand of Moses. But the most important fulfilment of this is in the person of the Son of God, who is Himself the true representative of Israel.

Herod, however, angry because the wise men did not return to him, gave orders for the murder of every boy up to two years of age in Bethlehem and the surrounding area. This accorded with the time the wise men had told him the star appeared. One might question why he included even new-born babies; but no doubt he was determined to allow no possibility of any margin of error; in Case, for instance, that the star appeared earlier than the child's birth, so as to bring the wise men to Bethlehem about the time of his birth. On the other hand, if it were over a year since the child had been born, then he would make it two years, to be sure that his evil plan should work. How foolishly ignorant and vain is the enmity of man against God! Contemporary history also reports that Herod was a dying man at this time. Yet his self-cantered pride could tolerate no thought of a rival, though only a child!

Another Scripture (Jeremiah 31:15) is here fulfilled in the pathetic weeping and great mourning of Rachel. She is used of course as symbolical of the many mothers of Israel's children. Herod's wicked cruelty does not succeed in its purpose, but inflicts suffering and sorrow on large numbers.

But he dies; called away to face the righteous tribunal of the God he has defied. Then again Joseph is supernaturally directed by an angel to return to Israel. The calm, measured control of God's hand is beautifully seen in every step. Joseph accordingly takes the young child and his mother (notice the child again first mentioned), and returns to the land. He no doubt had in mind to live again in Judea; but is troubled by news that the son of Herod, Archelaeus (whose character was no better than his father's), had succeeded to the throne; so that he feared to dwell anywhere in Judea. Again God directly intervened by means of a dream, with a warning that coincided with Joseph's fears; and they go to Galilee instead.

They return to the city in which Mary had first been informed by Gabriel that she would be the virgin mother of the Messiah (Luke 1:26-37). From that time they remained in Nazareth until the time of the Lord's public ministry. This is said to be a fulfilment of what was spoken by the prophets. It is not therefore confined to one specific prophecy, but seems to refer to the general consensus of the ministry of the prophets. Nazareth being a place despised by the Jews (John 1:46), this may be intended to indicate what the prophets generally affirmed, that the Messiah would be despised and rejected of men. The scene changes: the boyhood of the Lord Jesus is here passed over in silence, for this Gospel has an official character, as we have seen. Nothing is said either about the birth or youth of John the Baptist (an important matter in Luke's Gospel--ch.1); so that about 28 years have elapsed before we are introduced to John's preaching in the wilderness of Judea.

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Matthew 2". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/matthew-2.html. 1897-1910.
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